Monday, September 29, 2008

George's summer in live music #1: Radiohead

Surely this will pale next to Drew's immaculate effort of a few weeks past, but notwithstanding...a brief-to-hearty summation of the four concerts of import I attended over the summer months. Here we begin with a worthy kick-off:

1. Radiohead (w/Liars)
May 9th, 2008
Verizon Wireless Ampitheater
Charlotte, NC

My old 89 Cutlass did me well this summer to the tune of 16 hours (round trip) worth of concert journeying. The first 3 connected two of the more prominent southern cities to begin "CHARL"--we're talking Charleston and Charlotte. The drive was solid, gridlocked towards the end, as a fleet of Apple-stickered VWs bottlenecked all routes leading to the horribly-planned venue parking facilities. I heard the Liars bashing it out as I idled three feet away from the calloused palm of one of Charlotte's finest, allowing what seemed like several hundred thousand drivers from the other direction to funnel in before me. Finally I reached a spot and hurried across the still-clotted road to the venue.

Liars had finished by the time my ticket was scanned. I wandered around a bit, rendezvoused with my good friend Celia, and then found my seat. I sat with long-time friend and fellow HSW contributor Thomas Salley and my good buddy Matt in the back row of the covered, seated section (worst of the good seats?) We enhanced our view by standing on our plastic seats or sat on the concrete wall at our backs, for we had no one behind us whose views we might obstruct.

When the band emerged, the audience reacted predictably--a frenzy that greets only the world's largest bands. But unlike most of the world's largest acts, the boys didn't break into a jog, waving arms and cueing pyro, adjusting their head-set microphones and such. A slight nod, brief wave, instruments manned, and off we go.

The show was everything I might have expected: Superb musicianship, incredible sound, a lightshow for the ages: LEDs firing across large beams or slats that hung vertically like track blinds. The band didn't make use of the large-screens that flanked the stage, opting for their own quintet of smaller monitors, each filming a band member from some artsy angle. Thom Yorke was far more personable onstage than I'd have expected...geeky and cordial, but still confident and a much bigger presence than his 5'4" (estimating here) stature would indicate.

The Gentleman Colin Greenwood bounced cooly with every rumbly bassline (most notably his "Where I End and You Begin".) Phil Selway's drumming thundered through the night, loud and tight like John Bonham, all the while looking ever-so-much like Rob Halford. Ed O'Brien's harmonies on "Weird Fishes" eerily shimmered like the Northern Lights. Johnny Greenwood spasmed behind his Telecaster or space-instrument of choice, his sharp jaw jutting from his trademark oddball bob. Predictably, the setlist leaned heavily towards Kid A, Hail to the Thief, and In Rainbows. But there a few offerings from OK Computer (including a version of "Exit Music" that seemed to uproot the entire ampitheater until it hovered in the night), and even "Planet Telex" popped up (regrettably the only tune from The Bends to make an appearance.) Personal song highlights included concert closer "Reckoner," the always menacing "Talk Show Host," an absolutely destructive "Paranoid Android," a high-powered "Everything In It's Right Place," and--a darkhorse contender for song of the night--the clubbish "Myxomatosis" from Hail to the Thief.

The experience was a bit soured by the absolutely HELLACIOUS mass-exodus, a consequence of the aforementioned parking situation. So Thomas and I relaxed; he found his way into a game of catch with some Panthers fans while I stargazed on my hood. A good hour and a half after the final note of Reckoner, we were finally able to leave the goddamn venue.

But who could fault Radiohead for their drawing power. I'd do it nightly if it meant being privy to a performance of that calibur; but thankfully, there is only one Radiohead and they don't tour very often.


George said...

Ever notice how Ed always has to stand in the back? That's what happens when you have a 7 foot guitarist and a 4 foot singer...

Thomas said...

Panthfinder strikes again! Also, I think there was a ghetto of Columbia hipsters corralled somewhere at the venue, because we got a lot of second glances leaving the venue. As Celia appropriately put it, the "Carolina Cup" of hipsters.

Drew said...


Let's have a Carolina Hipster Cup.

We'll just replace the horses with fixed gear bicycles and the Southern charm with awkward snark.